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October 7, 2016

Depression in Early Pregnancy Linked to Gestational Diabetes, Study Finds

Researchers at NIH have discovered a two-way link between depression and gestational diabetes. Women who reported feeling depressed during the first two trimesters of pregnancy were nearly twice as likely to develop gestational diabetes, according to an analysis of pregnancy records. Conversely, a separate analysis found that women who developed gestational diabetes were more likely to report postpartum depression 6 weeks after giving birth, compared to a similar group of women who did not develop gestational diabetes.

The study was published online in Diabetologia.

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes (high blood sugar level) occurring only in pregnancy, which if untreated may cause serious health problems for mother and infant.

“Our data suggest that depression and gestational diabetes may occur together,” said the study’s first author, Dr. Stefanie Hinkle of NICHD. “Until we learn more, physicians may want to consider observing pregnant women with depressive symptoms for signs of gestational diabetes. They also may want to monitor women who have had gestational diabetes for signs of postpartum depression.”

Although obesity is known to increase the risk for gestational diabetes, the likelihood of gestational diabetes was higher for non-obese women reporting depression than for obese women with depression.

Brain Benefits of Aerobic Exercise Lost to Mercury Exposure

The FDA recommends that children and women of childbearing age eat 2 to 3 weekly servings of fish low in mercury as part of a healthy diet.
The FDA recommends that children and women of childbearing age eat 2 to 3 weekly servings of fish low in mercury as part of a healthy diet.

Cognitive function improves with aerobic exercise, but not for people exposed to high levels of mercury before birth, according to research funded by NIEHS. Adults with high prenatal exposure to methylmercury, which mainly comes from maternal consumption of fish with high mercury levels, did not experience the faster cognitive processing and better short term memory benefits of exercise that were seen in those with low prenatal methylmercury exposures.

This is one of the first studies to examine how methylmercury exposure in the womb may affect cognitive function in adults. Mercury comes from industrial pollution in the air that falls into the water, where it turns into methylmercury and accumulates in fish. The scientists, based at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, suspect that prenatal exposure to methylmercury, known to have toxic effects on the developing brain and nervous system, may limit the ability of nervous system tissues to grow and develop in response to increased aerobic fitness.

The findings were published Sept. 9 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

“We know that neurodevelopment is a delicate process that is especially sensitive to methylmercury and other environmental toxins, but we are still discovering the lifelong ripple effects of these exposures,” said Dr. Gwen Collman of NIEHS. “This research points to adult cognitive function as a new area of concern.”

The Food and Drug Administration recommends that children and women of childbearing age eat 2 to 3 weekly servings of fish low in mercury as part of a healthy diet. Low-mercury fish include salmon, shrimp, pollock, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod. Four types of fish should be avoided because of typically high mercury levels—tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish and king mackerel.

Scientists Detail Pathways for Addressing Antimicrobial Resistance

Researchers must address the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance and stay ahead of the inevitable future emergencies of resistant bacteria, according to physicians and scientists at NIAID. Writing in the Sept. 20 issue of JAMA, the authors stress the urgent need for new strategies to identify and develop new antibiotic drug candidates and vaccines and other interventions to prevent bacterial infections.

In the United States, antimicrobial-resistant bacteria cause more than 2 million infections and 23,000 deaths each year, resulting in an estimated $20 billion in excess medical spending. Inappropriate antibiotic prescribing practices in human medicine, agricultural use of antibiotics to promote animal growth and challenging bacterial genetic characteristics have contributed to the resistance problem, the authors write.

The authors emphasize that certain of these issues are already being addressed through public education campaigns. However, they should be augmented by proven public health initiatives such as vaccination against bacterial infections and expanded access to clean water and sanitation.

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